Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This book has it all! Action, adventure, romance, spies, car chases, explosives, intrigue, cross-dressing…
Wait. What? Cross-dressing?
Yes indeedy. London, 1928. Ten years after the end of the Great War. An anarchist threat against the British Government foiled by a cross dressing linguistic specialist.
I loved it all. I was immediately drawn into this fast paced adventure where field agent Briers Allerdale teams up with linguistic agent Miles Siward to track down and neutralize the vicious terrorist Andrija. Briers has been stationed in the Balkans for years, and is one of the only men who’s ever seen Andrija’s face, and those of his comrades. He gathered intelligence that Andrija was on his way to London with his henchmen, but no one knows what Andrija has planned, or what his target is. They only know that Andrija’s girlfriend and co-conspirator has taken up a position as a nanny next door to a diplomat with the Foreign Office. With nothing else to go on, the home office decides to station Briers and Miles to do surveillance of Josephine and try to discover the rest of the plot. The catch? They must pose as a married couple in the rooming house across the street.
Although Miles hasn’t been an active field agent, he is a very talented actor, and the home office has used him to impersonate women in the past, though only for very minor and short missions. This mission will require him to be much more convincing on a longer term, as he needs to fool not only the people in the rooming house, but Andrija’s girlfriend as well. While Miles might be unassuming, his alter ego Millie is brash, brave, and intelligent, and more than up to the task. Briers is impressed first with Millie, but over time he recognizes that Miles is braver than he thought, equally clever, and worthy of respect. Affection grows between the two men, but their focus remains on the mission, on bringing down Andreja and saving England.
The book is, therefore, primarily an adventure. The romance is secondary, but I still enjoyed watching as Miles and Brier went from wary colleagues to casual lovers to a true couple. The descriptions of being gay at this time in England were very interesting, especially how men of the lavender persuasion went about finding other like minded men. Miles’ female impersonations, though necessary for national security, opened him up to ridicule and derision, and I loved how the author described his inner conflict of enjoying becoming his alter ego while concurrently being ashamed of enjoying it. Briers had a great deal of sensitivity about it as well, recognizing that Millie is actually an essential part of Miles.
Historical fiction buffs will love this, with the realistic trivia of daily life in interwar London. Action aficionados will love the car chase (high speed was less than 40 mph then!) and the sewer reconnaissance. Readers like me who enjoy character development will appreciate how two quite different men came to know and love each other. Highly recommended!
The cover art is different, murky. Not sure what to think of it exactly.
ebook, 248 pages
Published August 1st 2016 by Manifold Press